We speak to newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Eddie Warden Owen
Is the Royal Ocean Racing Club doing a good job? There are some who would say 'no', citing the demise of the Admiral's Cup, the poor introduction of IRM or the inability to get international consensus on a new Grand Prix Rule. However if you flick through the club's racing calendar, all those reassuringly familiar events that were there in one's youth are still there. For when it comes to these events, the RORC's bread and butter, the club is at present doing extremely well. A look at the results from 2007 indicates that 446 boats took part over the course of the year – by no means a shoddy number, although admittedly it was a Fastnet year.
The RORC has a excellent and well situated club house in St James' in central London, another foothold in Cowes, and of course the Rating Office in Lymington where Mike Urwin and his team are among the most respected in the world when it comes to rule making and management.
While IRM may have all but fallen by the wayside, there is no doubt that IRC is increasingly becoming the rating rule of choice throughout the world. It has a foothold down under – it is now used in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race to determine the overall winner and recipient of the Tattershall's Cup, while over the last two years IRC has been enjoying an ever increasing take-up by top races in the US.
Into this situation at the RORC, comes a new Chief Executive Officer starting full time this coming Monday in the familiar form of Eddie Warden-Owen. A hardcore racer for more than three decades, Warden Owen was selected to represent the UK in the 470 at the Moscow Games in 1980 and has since sailed every sort of race boat imaginable including involvement in seven America's Cup campaigns, most recently as coach to Desafio Espanol. A lifelong pro-sailor Warden Owen is one of those familiar faces you see at pretty much every major regatta you go to around the world. With regard to his new appointment, if ever there were a case of poacher turned gamekeeper, this would be it.
"When you get to a certain age, you realise that the sport that we're in, any sport in fact, is a young person's sport," he says. "I have done it for a hell of a long time. I've done everything there is to be done and the last America's Cup ticked all the boxes in that we achieved the goal we set out to achieve and we all left as good friends. This opportunity came at the right time and they don't come often. It tweaked some excitement in me and the more I found out about it, the more excited I was about putting something back into the sport."
The role of CEO essentially involves running the Club and its assets and services as a business. "The bus is moving along very well," continues Warden Owen. "It is very successful and does a good job for its members and also it does a good job for what you might call Ocean Racing UK. To go and say 'I'm going to make sweeping changes' – I can't do that because it is successful and it is a matter of tweaking what's there and guiding it along a path that maybe will become easier to define once I have been in the job for a while."
In terms of the ideas he had that got him the appointment he says: "They wanted to get a feel for where I thought the sport could go and they had ideas, but there was nothing outlandish or extreme. It was just a matter of being probably, dare I say it, a bit more commercial, but mindful of the fact that the Club has been around for a long time, it is successful, it has a lot of members and it is a secure base.
"For me what I see about RORC is the fact that it is a brand. The Royal Ocean Racing Club is the stamp of approval. Things like the Dubai-Muscat Race or the South China Sea Race – both are 'in association with the RORC' and they [the organisers of these events] want the help and expertise that RORC has to give their events credibility as well as that security to know they are doing the right thing. For me RORC is a much bigger name than what we see in the UK. It has a lot of credibility outside of this country."
As a long term competitor, the most obvious side where Warden Owen should be able to make developments are on the racing side, but he says this is unlikely to take place in 2008 as the calendar is already in place.
With the new appointment there has also been change within the RORC's racing department with Ian Loffhagen taking over Janet Grosvenor's role as Racing Manager with Grosvenor attempting, once again, to go more part time (we'll believe it when we see it!) "She'll be there in support, I suppose and I'd certainly welcome her experience, because she's been there a long time and knows the club backwards. Ian will just carrying on where Janet left off, where they have been working from over the last couple of years. The only major change is myself."
Saying that there are some new initiatives for 2008 such as the races to Madeira and back in August and in our view, in terms of the RORC 'doing what it says on the tin' (ie being the Royal OCEAN Racing Club, rather than the Royal Inshore/Offshore Racing Club) this is a good thing. But as Warden Owen puts it "we just want to see how these events are supported by the sailors".
In terms of their major events – the Rolex Fastnet Race seems to be as successful and well-attended as it always has been. This year there is the Rolex Commodores' Cup in June-July and although Warden Owen admits he is not fully up to speed with the latest on this, he reckons it is going to be a bumper year with more countries than ever entered.
Of course an event close to his heart as a past winner when he skippered the One Tonner Indulgence in 1989, is the Admiral's Cup. So will we see another attempt to get this revitalised? "I'd love to see it happen," he admits. "It is hard to plan events, because it is easy for RORC to say 'we'll hold an Admiral's Cup whenever', but without the commitments of the boats and sailors from different countries you have no event. It probably failed in the past because there wasn't the support there. I would love to see another Admiral's Cup going and so many people asked me when they heard about me taking the job "come on Eddie, what about the Admiral's Cup?' And I said ‘well, tell me what form it should be in?'
"Do we look at those events that we enjoy, those old team inter-country challenges or do we see something completely different? I think I need to address that before I can say 'yes, I'd love to see another Admiral's Cup'. For sure it is close to my heart, I've done a lot of them and enjoyed them, but before I can say anything I need to have a feeling for what the sailors want. I know most of the top players in the world, so maybe it is easier for me to canvas their opinion than maybe it is for someone else. I'd like to see it happen, but it is not going to happen unless we can be sure it is going to be a successful event and worthy of the standing of the name."
A benefit of having someone with Warden Owen's experience in the top dog role at the RORC is that he has seen how racing works all around the world. Particularly he has spent a lot of time racing in Spain on both the IMS circuit and more recently in the TP52s at the Breitling MedCup. Are there lessons that can be drawn from there?
"We'd love to bring the weather back! Maybe we should see IRC going into the Med more strongly than it is. I would say that having events in different places around the UK could be an area that needs exploring, but that is not really a RORC commitment. The RORC's commitment is to offshore sailing or organising racing for offshore yachts. The Med events are completely inshore, windward-l
eeward orientated races with an element of fun. For me yachting is fun and if there is one thing that I want to do is to try and develop that area, so that people do have more fun at our events. That is my main focus and keeping the ship running in an orderly and timely fashion."
Another vital responsibility will be his attempting to bring more sponsorship on board for the club's premier events. This is another area where he feels well equipped. He and wife Sue for more than a decade have run a sponsorship and PR company.
"I have dealt a lot with sponsors in the past, so it is an area I feel strongly about," he says. "There are events which RORC are running which aren't sponsored: the Madeira Race, the IRC Nationals, to give two examples which could do with financial support and they could do with exposure as well. The IRC Nationals is well attended by top teams in the UK and it can give a sponsor a good return. It is an area I will be looking at and carrying on the work people have done in working with Rolex and Red Funnel for a start and trying to move those on into the future."
Obviously his job at the RORC will mean more time spent in the UK with his family but also a return to sailing in the UK (typically UK sailors of Warden Owen's calibre are permanently on planes to the Med). "It will put a different slant on it," he says of his own racing going forward."I'll enjoy my sailing in the Solent or wherever we go racing. For me, I need to spend time with the family. For sure one of the reasons for taking this job is that we only have our time once with our kids."
To us it seems that Warden Owen is approaching his new job in the right way. In recent years the RORC have always seemed to do best when there's been no one attempting to rock the boat, leaving the sport and those involved with it to their own devices, allowing them to evolve the sport naturally. But if there is one man who we can be assured will do all he can to bring the Admiral's Cup back to life, then it is Warden Owen. Watch this space…
What would you like to see Eddie Warden Owen do in his new role? Email us here
Eddie Warden Owen – sailing record:
1986 Grundig World Cup (France) 2nd
Lymington Cup (U.K.) 3rd
1987 Congressional Cup (USA) 1st
Citizen Match Race (N.Z.) 2nd
Liberty Cup (USA) Semi – Finalist
Australia Cup Semi – Finalist
Nippon Cup (Japan) 2nd
1988 Nippon Cup (Japan) 1st
World Championships (Australia) Semi – Finalist
Lymington Cup (U.K.) 2nd
1989 Baltic Match Race (Germany) Semi – Finalist
Bermuda Match Race Semi – Finalist
Nippon Cup (Japan) Semi – Finalist
World Championships (U.K.) Semi – Finalist
1990 World Championships (New Zealand) Semi-Finalist
Reached No 3 in World Match Race Rankings
A.C.Y. Cup (Yugoslavia) 2nd
Lymington Cup (UK) 2nd
Baltic Match Race (Germany) 2nd
1991 Omega Gold Cup (Bermuda) 1st
British Championships 1st
A.C.Y. Cup (Yugoslavia) 2nd
1992 Coach To The New Zealand Americas Cup Challenge.
1993 World Championships (Australia) Semi – Finalist
Spanish International Match Cup 1st
Lymington Cup (UK) 2nd
1994/95 Coach to Spanish Americas Cup Challenge
Spanish International Match Cup 2nd
Dinghy and Keelboat Racing Results
1969 Winner of the Welsh Games
1970 Dunhill Finnfinder Champion
1971/73/76 G.P.14 National Champion
1977/78/79/80 470 UK National Champion
1978 470 Kiel Week Winner
1979 505 Pacific Champion
1980 470 UK Olympic Representative
Fireball National & European Champion
1981 Mainsheet Trimmer, 12 Metre World Champion
1982/83/84/85 J/24 UK National Champion
1985 J24 – 2nd – World & European Championships
Admirals Cup "Top Boat" Winner, Helmsman of 'Phoenix'
Helmsman of ‘Cifraline' Southern Cross Cup Winner, British Team.
1986 Skipper of 'Indulgence' – Winner 3/4 Ton Cup World Championships
Navigator of British challenge for the Americas Cup ‘White Crusader'
Skipper of 12 Metre, 'White Crusader', Fleet Race Winner, Australia.
1987 Navigator and back up helmsman ‘White Crusader' – British Challenge for the Americas Cup Freemantle Australia
Helmsman ‘Cifraline' – Southern Cross Cup winner
1988 Skipper of 12 Metre, 'Crusader 2', Midnight Sun Cup Winner, World Championships, Sweden
Skipper of 'Indulgence' – British Team, Hawaii.
Skipper of Jeanneau Selection, French Championship Winner.
1989 Skipper of 'Indulgence'- One Ton Cup – Naples, Italy – 2nd overall
Skipper of 'Indulgence' – Admiral's Cup Winner
Skipper of 'Cannon Express' – Southern Cross Cup Winner
1991 Skipper of 50' ‘Will', Japan Admirals Cup Team
1991/2 Coach to New Zealand Americas Cup Challenge.
1993 Skipper of Farr 50 ‘Indulgence', British Admirals Cup Team. Winner of the Fastnet Race.
Tactician of ‘La Rouge' – Winner of Two-Ton Cup
1994 Skipper of ‘Mumm A Mia'. Winner of Mumm 36 European Circuit
1995 Skipper of ‘Mumm A Mia'. Winner of The Admirals Cup for Italy
Winner of Fastnet Race – Mumm 36 Class
Skipper Team Mobil – Ultra 30 Class
Coach to the Spanish Americas Cup team – San Diego
1996 Skipper One Design 48. Winner SORC Miami.
Skipper Team Hoya – Ultra 30 Class
Team Captain – Welsh Commodores Cup Team
1997 Skipper of ‘Babbalaas' – Corel 45 winner of Celtic Week
Tactician, ‘Group 4 Securitas' – Ericsson 80 – 2nd overall ‘Round Europe Race'
Tactician, ‘Breeze' – Mumm 36 Italian Team Admirals Cup.
Skipper, ‘Babbalaas' – Corel 45 World Championships.
Tactician, ‘Optimumm II' – Mumm 30 World Championships
Skipper ‘Team Hoya' – Ultra 30 Class
1998 Tactician, Corel 45 ‘Heatwave' – 3rd Key West Race Week
Skipper, Corel 45 ‘Indulgence' – 2nd SORC Miami
Skipper, Corel 45 ‘Indulgence' – 2nd Zegna International Regatta Barcelona
Skipper, Corel 45 ‘Babbalaas' – 2nd Breitling Cup.. Majorca
Tactician Swan 60 ‘Highland Fling' – Copa del Rey.. Majorca
Tactician Swan 60 ‘Highland Fling' – Swan Worlds.. Sardinia
Skipper, Corel 45 ‘Babbalaas' – 2nd Corel winter series. Barcelona
Skipper ‘Team Hoya' – Ultra 30 Class
1999 Tactician, Farr CM 60 ‘Highland Fling' – 1st overall – Key West Race Week
Tactician, Farr CM 60 ‘Highland Fling' – 3rd overall – Copa del Rey
Skipper Corel 45 ‘Babbalaas' – 2nd overall Barcelona winter series
Skipper Corel 45 ‘Babbalaas' – 4th overall World Championships
Tactician, Farr 50 ‘Breeze' – Italian Team Admirals Cup
Coach to the Spanish Americas Cup team – Auckland New Zealand
Skipper ‘Team Hoya' – Ultra 30 Class
2000 Skipper, Farr CM 60 ‘Highland Fling' – 1st Overall – Key West Race Week
Tactician, Corby 38 ‘Gloves Off' – 1st Overall – Skandia Life Cowes Week
2001 Skipper, Farr CM 60 ‘Highland Fling' – Key West Race Week and Heineken, St Maarten
Tactician, Farr 40 ‘Bambakou' – World and European Regattas – Solent UK
Tactician, Corby 38 ‘Gloves Off' – 1st Overall – Rover Scottish Series, Tarbert, Loch Fyne
Skipper 12 metre ‘Ecosse' – 150th Anniversary of the Americas Cup – Cowes UK
Tactician RP65 ‘Blue Yankee' – 1st Overall Block Island Race Week and Vineyard Race record.
2002 Tactician Farr 40 and Farr 52 ‘Mascalzone Latino' – Key West and European circuit
Tactician Farr 40 ‘Still Crazy' – Wes
t Coast circuit
Tactician Corby 39 ‘Gloves Off' – Ford Cork Week
Coach to Mascalzone Latino Americas Cup Challenge – Auckland New Zealand
2003 Tactician, Grand Soliel 57 ‘Caixa Galicia' – 1st overall Spanish IMS circuit
Skipper/Tactician Kerr 55 ‘Bribon/Aera' – Spanish Admirals Cup team. Winner of IRC Nationals and Cowes Week Class 0
Skipper Swan 59 ‘Tazani' – winner of class Antigua Race Week
Tactician RP65 ‘Blue Yankee' – 1st Overall Block Island Race Week.
2004 Tactician, Farr CM60 ‘Highland Fling' – Key West Race Week
Tactician, B & C 49 ‘Azur de Puig' – Spanish circuit
Tactician/coach, Farr 40 ‘Madina Milano' – Mediterranean circuit
Tactician, Grand Soleil 57 ‘Caixa Galicia' – 3rd overall IMS Europeans
Tactician, Ker 39 ‘Flying Glove' – Cork Week and Commodore Cup
Tactician, Ker 55 ‘AERA' 1st overall – San Francisco Big Boat series
Tactician, Farr 45 ‘Babbalaas' 1st overall UK Nationals
Skipper/tactician, Farr 52 ‘Optimumm 3' – 1st overall Middle Sea Race
2005 Tactician Kerr 39 ‘Flying Glove' – British IRC National championships winner
Tactician Kerr 39 ‘Flying Glove' – 2nd overall Irish IRC National championships
Tactician RP 65 ‘Blue Yankee' – 3rd overall NYYC Annual regatta
2006 Appointed coach to Desafio Espanol. Spanish challenger for the 2007 Americas Cup
Tactician, Kerr 50 ‘Magic Glove'. UK IRC championships and Cowes Week
Tactician, RP 66 ‘Blue Yankee' – Winner of Vineyard Race.
2007 Coach to Desafio Espanol 2007 – Semi-finalist of Luis Vuitton Cup.
Tactician, RP 66 ‘Blue Yankee' – Winner, Block Island Race Week and USA IRC champions.
Tactician, TP 52 ‘Aifos' – Med Cup series.
Tactician, Swan 45 ‘McFly' – Swan 45 World championships, Cowes.
Tactician, RP 66 ‘Blue Yankee' – Winner of Vineyard Race and new race record.
Tactician, Wally 80 ‘Highland Fling X' – Voile de St Tropez
2008 Skipper Swan 45 ‘Murka' – winner Class 2 IRC Key West Race Week
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